Here's one last chapter reveal before Frost (Midnight Ice Book One) goes on sale in TWO DAYS!! What?? Crazy! I'm so excited! If you missed the first two reveals, check them out here: first chapter reveal & second chapter reveal :)
Without further ado...chapter three!
(Midnight Ice Book 1)
Pandora didn’t stop running until she reached her studio apartment, closed the door behind her, and fell back against it. Lifting her hands, she realized her fingers were still trembling.
I'm a vampire, for god’s sake, she thought, annoyed. I'm tougher than this.
But was she?
Seeing Jax had brought back a lifetime of feelings she'd spent the past few years trying desperately to forget. Obviously, she hadn't been as successful as she'd hoped.
Obviously, I haven't been very successful at all.
But that was about to change.
Because today was her twentieth birthday, and it was time to finally move on. Like she’d said to Jax, she was never going back, and it was time to start acting like it.
Spurred on by new resolve, Pandora ripped open her closet door and dug through the shoes and clothes bundled on the ground. A sharp metal corner pricked her palm. She yanked the photograph of Jax out.
But that wasn’t the only thing it was time to destroy.
Swallowing deeply, Pandora stretched her hands farther into the closet. She pulled out the only other thing she still had from her life before—a tote bag that was flattened and smashed against the ground. Resting the cotton on her knees, Pandora fingered the broken strap, the mud-stained spots, the zipper that refused to close. The bag was completely unusable—she’d pretty much destroyed it during her escape from the enclave. But for some reason, she’d never been able to let it go. On the night she’d left, she was pretty sure she’d grabbed it just because it was the biggest one she owned, could hold the most stuff. It was only after, when she’d woken up alone and as a vampire, realizing for the first time that there really was no going home, that she remembered what the tote really was. A present her father had gotten her for her thirteenth birthday, special because it was the only thing he ever bought that had required any bit of thought, that wasn’t related to titan life. Knives from the armory when she was ten. Her mother’s secondhand combat boots at fifteen. A worn-out, plastic bow-and-arrow set when she was seven. But this bag was something she’d torn from the pages of a magazine and left on the kitchen counter, a subtle hint she never dreamed he’d notice. But miraculously, he had.
Good grief. Pandora sighed, eying the two items in her hands. What sort of life had she lived that the photograph of a boy who’d broken her heart and the ratty old gift of a father who’d never once told her he loved her still meant so much?
I’ve got to get out of here, she thought, shaking her head and standing. Freaking birthday!
And she knew just the place to go.
It was a blood bar in the meatpacking district. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on her. One of the rules of being a vamp was that only human blood did the trick—no animals, no way to cheat. So even though the trendy area had once been New York’s personal slaughterhouse, only human blood was served there now.
Tatsuya had funded the bar, one of the head vamp's many efforts to keep the mass murdering a little more under control in his city. Vampires weren't known for being especially careful with their food, but this had helped. The cocktails were crafted with the blood bags Tatsuya secured from the Red Cross, and there was a room in the back with willing victims, but Pandora had never seen it. Just the idea made her shiver. She’d fed on people before, out of desperation in the early days, and she remembered those vacant, exalted human eyes all too well. She couldn't erase the memories from her mind. The volunteers were little more than junkies searching for their next hit, and unfortunately, there were plenty of vamps all too willing to comply.
Nope, I think a cocktail will be just fine, thank you very much.
She just needed a bit of an escape.
A moment to unwind, to lose herself, to forget.
Already grinning with the ingenuity of the idea, Pandora dropped the picture and the bag on her bed, then scoured her closet for the right thing to wear. Sure, it was still the middle of the day, but vampires loved themselves some sexy, revealing attire. And, well, so did she, especially when she was going out. Because becoming a vamp as a teenager? Not exactly the best thing ever. Her face still looked young, fresh, far too youthful. Her body, on the other hand, did not. At fifteen, she'd already been about five foot ten, well endowed with a woman's curves. So even though she'd stopped aging, passing for her actual age of twenty wasn't too difficult. Especially when she'd ditched her baggy sweatshirt and grungy jeans for hip-hugging high-rise leather leggings and a midriff-baring crop top. She'd once been a Goody Two-shoes titan, but she wasn't anymore. And sometimes it just felt good to be bad.
Much better, she thought, staring at her almost unrecognizable reflection. Hunger made her eyes glow the supernatural frosty-blue of a vamp, and when she smiled, fangs slipped over her lower lip, drawn out by the anticipation.
The birthday girl was gone.
The vampire had returned.
Normally she’d fight it, but not today. Twenty was a new era, a whole new decade. And maybe seeing Jax had given her the closure she needed to finally let go. Sure, he’d looked amazing. And sure, he’d made her heart beat for the first time in years. But the pain was still there, raw and deep, and Pandora didn’t think it would ever go away. So, she grabbed the photo and the tote, determined to make a quick pit stop on her way to the bar.
Twenty minutes later, she was standing at the edge of a dock on the Lower West Side, watching the water flow quickly downstream. The surface was choppy and tumultuous, spraying up to splatter her feet in a strong gust of wind.
Pandora held the tote bag out, staring at the fraying edges for a moment, and then let go. The cotton floated on the surface of the river as though suspended in air, and then a strong wave pushed it under, far enough that the striped pattern vanished from sight.
So long, she quipped.
But Pandora paused before dropping the photo of Jax, cradling it gently in her palms as the Hudson River continued to rush by beneath her feet. His smile was the same—that was the one thing that hadn’t changed. Those penetrating eyes, they’d grown older, harder, not nearly as open. His body had grown stronger, manlier, tougher. But his smile had been just as easy and entertained as ever.
She brushed her thumb over the glass, outlining his lips.
Oh, Jax. She sighed. How did it end up like this?
She drew her hand back as her chest throbbed painfully, a reminder that it had been his choice. But as she searched her mind for the reason, there was nothing there, just pain floating in empty space, tied to nothing yet tied to everything at the same time.
The last thing Pandora remembered before waking up as a vampire was the day before Jax’s birthday. The two of them had been in their tree house, daydreaming about running away, just as they always had—speaking in what-ifs and maybes, never serious, always playful. But for Pandora it had been real, always. She’d never belonged with the titans. Her strange ability to disappear had always kept her separate from everyone else—undefinable, other, different. Her father never loved her. Her mother was dead. She had nothing at the enclave to live for besides Jax, no reason to stay. But he had been different—a clear-cut tracker, the superstar of their class, popular and strong, always ready with a smooth smile and a joke. There was no doubt that when he turned sixteen he’d be initiated into the Order of Othrys, no doubt about his role in life. Pandora had always known that he would go one way and she would go another. She’d always planned to run away from the enclave once he was initiated—to go become a vet, to lead a normal life.
So, what had happened that day he turned sixteen?
What had changed so drastically that her entire world had flipped upside down? That she’d had to become a vampire to escape? What had made his birthday so painful, so utterly catastrophic that she couldn’t even live with the reminder of it? That she suppressed it so deeply inside her soul there was no memory left?
Doesn’t matter, she thought, closing her eyes tight. It’s in the past. And I’m moving forward, just like I always do. I’m moving on.
Pandora released the photograph, letting the frame slide through her fingers, and heard it splash. By the time she opened her eyes, it had already disappeared with the current, carried away.
She tore her gaze from the river and swallowed the knot in her throat. For once, she didn’t run away. She walked at a slow human pace back down the dock and onto the sidewalk, gathering herself and building her wall back up before she slipped through the inconspicuous front door of Bound.
The heady scent filled her nostrils immediately.
Pandora took a deep breath, trying to control the paralyzing hunger working its way through her system. Her dry veins ached, scratching her insides like knives, begging for sweet relief. But the club always had that effect on her. The blood was too potent, too overwhelming. And that was part of the lure—to get high on that euphoria, to lose herself in it.
Even in the middle of the day, Bound was crowded. Tables were full. There was already a line for the back room, where the living humans were held. And the dance floor was packed with vamps drunk on their hunger, grinding up against each other in total abandon—skin pale, lips red, eyes blazing blue. Where any blood dripped free, a hungry tongue was sure to follow, wild and uncontrolled.
Pandora made her way to the bar instead. Five minutes later, she secured a Bloody Mary from the bartender—heavy on the bloody—and found a spot in the shadows where she could be alone. No one was paying attention to her, and that was part of the reason she liked it here. She could fade away and feed without anyone even noticing.
Pandora lifted the glass to her lips and took a long sip, closing her eyes as the thick liquid slid down the back of her throat. There was no human food in her memory she could think to compare the sensation to, because it wasn't like eating dinner, it was like drinking life. As soon as the blood touched her heart, as soon as it filtered to her fingers, her toes, everything about her felt more alive. The lights were brighter, the smells more vibrant. Her muscles were stronger. The icy frost encasing her dead body lifted just a little as the warmth spread.
But along with the high came the hate.
The self-loathing of what she'd become.
Pandora slid the shadows around her, disappearing as she drank. For some reason, knowing no one else saw made her feel better, even if those other people were vampires who wouldn't judge her for the pleasure flashing in her eyes. All around, everywhere her laser-sharp gaze turned, were irises lit with the undeniable crystal glow of bloodlust. To all those vampires, it was natural. To her, it never would be.
Wanting a distraction, Pandora reached out with her ears, letting her eyes slip closed. Tomorrow night, at his charity ball for the Red Cross, she’d be facing Tatsuya for the first time. All his high lords and all the most powerful vampires in the city would be there. And what else would be there? The item she was getting paid just over a million dollars to steal right out from underneath their noses. A samurai sword, or katana as the client had called it. Apparently, the head vamp had taken it with him when he left home five hundred years ago, and now a group of very powerful Japanese vamps was paying her to get it back. And they didn’t care that today was her birthday, that today she’d seen her only love for the first time in four years, that she’d finally said good-bye. They only cared that she delivered…or else.
Normally, Pandora preferred to steal for a good cause, more of a supernatural Robin Hood, some might say. Blonder of course, with a much better ass. But sometimes the commission was a little too good to turn down. And this wasn't just about money—it was about sizing up her competition, seeing how strong Tatsuya really was. Because just like every other head vamp, he had a dungeon full of lost souls, and she intended to see it destroyed before she moved on to the next town and the next target.
No, there was no time for pity.
Tomorrow, she had to be on top of her game.
So Pandora decided to take advantage of being the invisible lurker in the corner and did a little eavesdropping, just in case something informative came up. At first, it was just the usual. He saw this vamp. She punched this werewolf. They escaped this or killed that or bit someone. And then she heard something a little more intriguing.
"I heard he's worried," someone said in the far opposite corner of the club. Pandora tilted her head just a little, finding a better angle to listen. "Bringing on more security. Constantine said he met with someone earlier this week, but no one knows who. He's scared."
"He's never scared," a deeper voice said, scoffing. "He has no reason to be."
"Maybe he does. Two hundred and twenty-five years is a long time to be in charge. And I've heard there's someone new in town, someone ready to take his place. All the high lords are afraid, not just him. Maybe—"
"That's enough," a higher-pitched voice interrupted, a woman's voice, sharp as a razor as it cut him off. "Not here. Go drink, go enjoy. I hear there's a new boy in the back. His blood smells like caramel. I intend to see if it tastes like it as well."
Asshole, Pandora sneered, imagining the poor kid stretched out like a druggie on a pedestal, waiting for his next bite. But there was nothing she could do about it, and there were other people she could save, the ones Tatsuya held trapped. So she focused on their other words—that he was worried, that he was bringing on more security, that the high lords were afraid.
Pandora grinned, downing the rest of her drink.
That was exactly what she'd been hoping to hear, and just in time too, because her glass was empty, and she was in the mood for a refill. All she wanted to do now was forget. Forget Jax, forget everything he'd stirred up, forget her birthday. So, she downed another bloody cocktail, this time O-negative. And another after that. She let the feeding frenzy take over, let the high of fresh life wash through her.
And lost herself in the blood and the music and the touch of other cold bodies just like hers, searching for that little spark of life, reveling in it.
"You look good enough to eat," a sultry voice whispered in her ear.
Pandora whipped around lightning fast, flashing her fangs. "I bite."
The man smiled, lips practically dripping with sin. "Me too."
Normally, this was when she'd punch and run. Seduction wasn't really her thing. It just made her think of another boy and another time she'd never get back. But tonight was different. Tonight she wanted to be free. Tonight she was determined to move on, to move forward.
So she grinned back, taking the stranger in. And really, a girl could do worse, much worse. He was tall, broad, with bright golden hair that seemed almost aflame in the darkness of the club. His vampire-blue eyes were just as bright as hers, flashing with unabashed hunger, brazen want. His skin, though, was what really caught her eye. It was sun-kissed and bronzed, not pallid, not washed out by his ebony shirt. Somehow he looked almost warm to the touch.
Before she could stop herself, Pandora lifted her fingers, stretching for the triangle of hard skin at the base of his throat, exposed between two sets of open buttons.
He stepped swiftly to the side.
The darkness seemed to follow, wisps of ebony clinging to his frame, undulating with his every movement.
"Not yet," he murmured, never once taking his eyes off her.
The longer he held her gaze, the more familiar it seemed to become, as though she'd seen those eyes before, as though this wasn't the first time they had caressed her body.
"Have we met?" she asked.
His smile deepened, filling with secrets she could tell he had no intention of spilling. "Not like this."
"Like what then?"
But he looked away without answering, sweeping his stare down to her lips, to every inch of exposed skin, lifting back to her throat, pausing there. She didn't move. There was a dangerous sort of confidence about him, but against her will, she found it alluring, intriguing in a forbidden way. She'd always been drawn to things she wasn't supposed to have. Usually, she took them anyway.
She reached out again, trying to touch him.
He moved deftly away, almost made of air as he circled behind her.
"Pandora," he whispered into her ear, breath like a kiss against the soft skin of her neck, making her shiver.
And then the word he spoke registered.
He knew her name.
"How…?" She spun around, trailing off when she realized there was nothing there, no one there.
A ghostly finger brushed against her elbow, tracing a burning path up her arm. "You're not the only one who knows how to disappear."
Pandora spun again.
But he was gone.
That's my trick, she thought, annoyed, trying to mask the shiver racing down her spine, trying to ignore it. Because she couldn't quite tell if it was desire or fear—and to be honest, neither option sounded appealing at the moment.
Pandora stole a drink from a nearby table, not caring what sort of blood was inside as she took a deep gulp, shaking off the strange encounter, trying to get lost in the music once more.
When another vamp sidled up next to her, snaking a hand around her waist, Pandora hissed, flashing her eyes in warning. One more move and she’d bite. Because sometimes, all a girl really wanted, especially on her birthday, was to dance like no one was watching and to be left the hell alone.
I hope you enjoyed the third chapter! That's the last of the reveals!
Frost goes on sale in just TWO DAYS! But if you're super eager (like me!), you can always pre-order a copy now :)